The journey to the top of the mountain is filled with many obstacles, teachable moments for those who dare to climb it but standing on top of the mountain can be just as brutal and lonely as the journey there.
2020 has brought many conversations to the forefront, from racial injustice, human rights, income inequality, sex & gender rights or injustice, many today are still disenfranchised just as much or even more before the world got ‘woke’.
In 1963 from his jail cell, Dr Martin King Luther Jnr wrote the infamous ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ speaking against injustice and segregation which to date continues to be the tools of oppressions that WE use against ourselves just as those whom capitalism favors.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – MLK Jnr.
Just as how I can call myself a naturalized American today and equally join in the fight for equality here, it would be unconscionable of me not to shed light thus giving others a platform and providing them with the strengthen, compassion and recognition they deserve.
In 2018, Dalton Harris won the highly competitive UK X-Factor singing competition amid mounting controversies, personal struggles, public pressures of ‘masculinity’ and has ever since struggled to find footings amongst his people.
The unquestionable talented Jamaican singer who in 2010 also won his country’s very own talent competition, Digicel Rising Star, at the age of 16 has been the recipient of ongoing homophobic/sexual discrimination from Jamaicans and others globally.
Dalton, who has had to litigate his strenuous relationship with his mother and family publicly also had to fight personal demons as he struggles with the varying perceptions of masculinity, gender, sexuality, and depression.
Jamaica despite its reputation of luscious landscape, beautiful beaches, renowned cuisine, vibrant culture and great music was once labeled as Most Homophobic Country by TIME Magazine but has arguably gotten a bit ‘safer’ for LGBTQ+ individuals.
In a published report in 2019 by the island’s foremost advocacy group, J-FLAG states “For 2019, we recorded a total number of 21 cases. A trend that was seen in the reporting was that most of the reports were physical and verbal assaults. These came from different persons. A small number of cases were reported to the police. Due to a lack of office space, the reports submitted were for asylum purposes. The lack of office space also affected our ability to collect other supporting documents from clients, such as an identification card, police reports, etc. It also affected the number of reports received as well as the purpose for making the report. All reports submitted since the start of the year, were from persons seeking asylum. Another trend recognized was that all reports for the year were made by gay men.” Read report here.
The United States Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor also published a report on Jamaica with a key focus on Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Jamaica concluded that “The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations and anal sex between men. Physical intimacy between men, in public or private, is punishable by two years in prison, and anal sex between men is punishable by up to 10 years. There is no comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation. The government enforced the portion of the law that criminalizes anal sex, or “buggery,” only in cases of sexual assault and child molestation.”
The report further adds “For JAMAICA 15 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018 United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor example, a man who sexually assaults a woman through penile penetration of the vagina is punishable by 15 years to life in prison. This same act, committed through penile anal penetration, of a woman, child, or man, would be punishable by only up to 10 years in prison. Local human rights advocates contended this was unequal protection under the law.
The law does not extend antidiscrimination protections to LGBTI persons on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. Furthermore, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights acknowledged that the law legitimizes violence towards LGBTI persons. During the year major political leaders, including the prime minister and two of his senior ministers, stated they would have “no problem” for a gay person to serve in their cabinet. The JCF also published official policy guidance stipulating that the police force would not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Nonetheless, the country was generally very homophobic with a culture of outward hostility toward LGBTI individuals.” Read Report Here.
In 2019 Out Magazine in an editorial titled ‘Homophobia cost Jamaica 11 Billion dollars a year,’ the article provided research data undertaken by Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) which was presented at its “Paying for Prejudice” event in Kingston, Jamaica demonstrating the massive financial loss the island continues to suffers as a result of its archaic anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
The islands homophobic stance which has been driven mostly by the islands genre of music, reggae-dancehall, saw songs such as “Boom Bye By” by Buju Banton; “Log On” by Elephant Man; “Chi Chi Man by TOK” and many other homophobic songs spreading bigotry through the hills and valleys of Jamaica and beyond its shores.
Despite the bigotry, many Jamaicans who fall within said minority groups continues to be the standard bearer internationally. However, it was at the 2019 Reggae Sumfest staging, I think, Dalton Harris in his utmost glory singing the iconic single “I have nothing” by Whitney Houston amongst other songs silently and bravely asked Jamaicans face to face for their acceptance or respecting his right to choose/privacy.
Just over a year later with rehab stints and rumored suicide attempts, the international Jamaican star in his own right shared his story with the world ending their continuous speculation and invasion of his right to privacy.
With singles such as “Cry”, “Graveyard and “No More Will I Roam” by Dalton and numerous covers garnering thousands of views, Dalton Harris on October 16, 2020 attributed a label to his sexuality.
Dalton via his social media channel spoke of his recent break-up and shared “I want to experience [life] and be honest with myself and everyone around me in my intentions. Not hide or mask feelings and or flaws. Not judge myself.” Well, it looks like he’s already starting down that path. My privacy is my business and whoever enters my bedroom will get there because of how I feel about them, My life is mine to live” he stated.
It was his final thoughts which many might argue was not necessary but relevant to individuals who themselves had been in the same position and needed to reclaim their power they felt they had lost.
“Privacy and honesty are different things and no one is entitled to ME,I will never ask for acceptance from anyone that struggles to accept me in the slightest bit. That is done and over with. To the boys with fragile egos, I am a TOP to you and your girlfriend. Or non-binary partner” Dalton concluded.
And lastly to those that are still attacking my sexuality, My privacy is my business and whoever enters my bedroom will get there because of how I feel about them, any of the other physical checkpoints I should meet to make anyone accept me. My life is mine to live. https://t.co/nL7mZBujZY
— Dalton Harris (@daltonharris) October 16, 2020
I have taken a very relaxed approach with regard to commenting and discussing matters of sexuality and civil rights for minority groups. In recent times, however, I’ve decided to use my platform to slowly educate, bring awareness and tolerance to the very sensitive issues which affect not just me directly, but thousands of disenfranchised & discriminated Jamaicans.
I’m no activist, never saw myself as one but I’ve always sought asked the questions that needed to be asked and demanded answers to question individuals think are too hard and often brushed aside.
How did we get here? How will we move beyond this point as a people? How many more must die, be cast out, be discriminated against? When will we realize that we have international obligations and local ones as well? When will our nations motto “Out Of Many One People” become a reality?
It is time we hold ourselves and officials to task. When will the Jamaican government take charge on the issue? When will you fight for and stand with your brother, solely because he is your brother? When will the Jamaican Motto and laws of the land act in unison providing equal protection under the law?
It is time we discuss the issue like an educated and modern society. I stand with Dalton; just as how many Jamaicans also stand hand in hand with him.
“Finding the inner strength to share publicly is easy but finding the courage to live in one’s truth daily is even harder” – Shuzzr
— Dalton Harris (@daltonharris) October 16, 2020